Peony’s End Series, The First

Yesterday was an unusually great day photography wise. I think I just hit the exact right time of day for lighting or something because I had more amazing photos in the round than I think I’ve ever had at one time. Funny, but almost all of those amazing ones were of peonies that were dead or well on their way there.

When I was moving them all from my camera and I realized how many good ones I had and how much of a struggle I was going to have deciding which ones I was going to want to share. Especially since so many of them were of peonies in various stages of dying off. All so similar in subject, but so unique at the same time.

I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try and post them as a series. Not that I don’t sort of already do that, but this way I’m being a bit more specific in what is related. Mostly it will just be in how I name the posts.

Anyway, that just means I’ll be posting lots of photos of peonies for a while with maybe some non-peony photos mixed in here and there.

Black and White Drops and Ruffles

I had such a hard time deciding if I wanted to post this version or the color version because they are both amazing. So…

Peach Iris Coated In Rain
Peach Iris Coated In Rain

Yesterday went well for BG. She feels so much better about everything now that she knows how the new normal looks and runs at dance.

The masks were an absolute hit and cracked me up to no end. BG hadn’t been in the studio with them for 5 minutes when I see the owner walk out with one on. Less than a minute later the teacher for that class also walks out with hers on (all the students were greeted with hand sanitizer outside the doors of the studio before they were allowed in). It was funny and sweet and I’m over the moon thrilled that they are enjoying them.

Another upside was that all the kids going into the studio had their masks. The parents standing around socializing outside weren’t as good about keeping theirs on or keeping their distance, but it could have been so much worse.

The sad thing, and we don’t know yet what it means going forward, was that probably half or less of the class showed up. It is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the week pans out as this was the very first of all the classes back. I’m especially concerned about how many older girls will show and how that will impact routines and recital.

BG was absolutely stunned to find out that her assistant friends from last night had either not practiced AT ALL or only a tiny bit. My girl has been dancing nearly every single day. As soon as a video for one of her routines was posted, she added it to her schedule and started working on it.

It is going to make an already chaotic and different recital even more so.

In some non-dance news, I’m working on making some changes for me. I’m sure it has already been noticed that the book reviews have dwindled down to almost nothing. There are lots of parts to this and I may still work up a post about that, but for now, I’m stepping back from most of that, including writing them for Envie!

This blog has been and always will be a space for me to share the things that bring me joy with the occasional rant or emotional outpouring thrown in. When things start to feel like that isn’t the focus anymore, I’m going to make changes. It seems like now is one of those times. I’m still not 100% sure what all will be changing or how much. It may not even be all that noticeable because the photos will absolutely still be coming.

Life is so full of stress and frustration and uncertainty right now, the last thing I need is for my blog to add to that so I’m going to make sure it isn’t.

Book Review: Stranger in the Lake – Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars

This was one twisty, bendy ride of a story. There are several layers to this, all weaving in and out of each other all the way through, making it really hard to pinpoint where it is going.

There are three distinct deaths that are the focus of this story. Sienna, Katherine, and Bobby. All years apart. All have questions surrounding them, but they aren’t all obviously connected, only Sienna’s and Katherine’s seem to be.

I loved how you are deep into the story before you are allowed to see if there are any real connections. Even when pieces come to light, you are still left wondering and questioning the whys behind each one and who, if anyone, was involved. There are a range of characters giving the reader lots of options to focus on without being overwhelmed with too many.

I often found myself thinking it was certainly headed one way, then I’m sent off in another direction, only to be brought back again or sent in an entirely new direction all together. It’s an aspect that I love about a good mystery when done well. A path that’s followed in a realistic, logical way, but one that still drags you all over the place.

This is something that Kimberly Belle is amazing at doing in most all of her books. She always keeps the reader engaged in what is happening on the page at all times.

And this one absolutely does that. All the way to the very end, just when you might think the story was in the wrap up and aftermath parts, you get another curve dropped in your path.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

**Featured in Envie! Magazine’s June 2020 edition.

Iris, Honeysuckle, & Chaos

Okay, so there isn’t anything really special about this photo, but there is something about the color contrast of the honeysuckle bloom laying on that purple petal that just kind of grabs you. I just thought it was an interesting contrast of colors, especially because it was such an unintentional setup.

Today marks the beginning of the chaos that was originally supposed to start back in April. BG goes back to dance for the first time since early March. With that comes a whole lot of new chaos that wasn’t in the original plans.

Yes, she will still be at the studio 4 times a week. Yes she will still have her extra rehearsal times for her additional performances. Those parts were already in the plans. Now included is the requirement for ALL students, teachers, staff, pretty much anyone that sets foot in the studio to wear a mask.

Even that requirement has been changed once as it was originally just staff and assistants that were required and all other students were optional, but local ordinances changed, so they implemented those changes.

My part of that effort will be going with BG to class tonight. A total of 30 masks, the bulk of which are for the studio staff. The handful of others will go to her fellow assistants in the classes she shares. I would have loved to have made one for every single assistant at the studio, but that number is nearly 100 and doesn’t include the actual staff.

It is going to be extremely interesting to see how everything plays out from here. I cannot imagine being a teacher and trying to enforce the mask rule on kids that are not only dancing, but in each other’s presence for the first time in months. Especially those in the much younger grades.

It is also going to be really interesting to see what kind, if any, push back they get from parents for enforcing that rule.

The other part of the chaos is going to be how I handle her long days at the studio.

Normally, the days she is there for longer than an hour, I go back home. Now, classes have been slightly shortened to allow staff to do any sanitizing between classes and to try and minimize the surge of students passing each other through the lobby between classes. I’m not certain what this means for ballet days where BG already normally has an hour gap between as they have not said anything about those students needing to leave. If she has to leave the studio, it would mean I’d need to stay the entire 2 1/2 hours so she could come sit with me in the car for that gap. The 20 minute drive home makes it impractical to leave and come back.

To make that already confusing for those long days even more so, she has at least 2 where it is even longer because of extra rehearsals. The first one is this Saturday. She is supposed to be at the studio from 3:30 until 9, with 2 different breaks in between. One is that hour long break and the other is a 15 minute break.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do that day. The idea of sitting in the car for that long really doesn’t appeal and it’s not like I’m going to go hang out at a nearby restaurant or shop right now. I wasn’t doing it before and I’m certainly not doing it now. I still have time to come up with a plan, but I’m struggling.

I still have a whole lot of mixed feelings about all of this moving forward. Especially with recent events creating something of an outbreak bomb waiting to go off in the area. As of right now, all the numbers are still impossibly low, so that helps. I’m just not convinced it will stay that way and that the parents will act responsibly on sending their kids to classes.

The only thing I know for sure is that BG is as ready as is possible for her to be to go back. She still isn’t entirely comfortable with wearing a mask while dancing, but she has gotten used to it enough that I’m not worried it is going to set off an anxiety attack at the studio.

I’m also fully prepared to pack like I’m going on a trip with my camera, my computer and my tablet to ensure I can keep myself entertained. No matter how long I’m having to sit in the parking lot.

Thank goodness tonight will only be about an hour.

 

Recommended Reads From May

Apparently May wasn’t a great month for me when it came to reading 4 or 5 star books. Granted, I did a whole lot of rereading in May and not a lot of new reads, but of those new reads, I also had more DNFs this month than I think I’ve ever had in a single month before along with a whole lot of “meh” tossed in. There is more to this I think, but my brain needs to let me untangle it all a bit. I’m sure there is a blog post about why in there somewhere, I just need to dig it out first.

 

My Kind of Town
My Kind of Town
Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book Name: My Kind of Town
Release Date: April 26, 2020 (reprint)
Series: The Long Island Coven
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Romance
Overall SPA: 4
Reviewed: No

Stranger In The Lake
Stranger In The Lake
Author: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: Stranger in the Lake
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: Yes (will post June 2nd – Envie!’s June Review)

The Stillwater Girls
The Stillwater Girls
Author: Minka Kent
Book Name: The Stillwater Girls
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Overall SPA: 4.5
Reviewed: No

Mauve and Wine Iris In The Rain

I was so lucky yesterday. It had been doing this light rain, almost a mist, most of the morning, but had tapered off when I first got up. I was able to get out and get some photos of one of my favorite subjects, flowers coated in raindrops, before it started pouring, which it did for the rest of the day.

I was so excited when I went through them about the number of shots that actually came out really well. I should have plenty of pretty photos to share for a little while now.

I managed to get all of BG’s masks done yesterday and the remaining 30 some masks half way finished. I basically did all the small piecing and minor hemming that needed to be done and stopped before putting the front and backs together with the elastic and/or ribbon (doing 2 different types for versatility).

Today there is going to be a crap ton of pinning going on before I can get back to sewing. Because I am doing the 2 different types, I might actually have enough materials to get most of these finished today.

I doubt I’ll be able to get them all done as my ribbon hasn’t shown up yet. I have some on hand, but probably not nearly enough to finish. I had originally planned to do them all the same, but rethought that because of all the different people that would be getting one.

The new option was to go with the original mask design and use the elastic loops for the ears. This seems to really only work for adults and, as my Hubby can attest, not all of them. So… two different styles it is.

I had a point yesterday where I panicked a bit because I thought I was actually going to run out of thread. After years of forgetting if I had enough thread while I was at the store getting materials for a project and just getting a new spool to be safe, I actually ran out of 2 spools of white thread. Granted, both were partial spools, but still. I ran out! I went through all of what I had and found a couple more partials and I think I’ll have enough to finish. Maybe.

I REALLY hope I don’t have to make an emergency run to the store just for thread.

 

Dandelion Seeds

The neighbors are kind enough to not maintain their yard. I was finally able to get a nice fluffy dandelion seed head within steps of my yard to photograph without having to crawl around in the middle of their yard to get the shot. I love their lack of motivation from a photography standpoint. Hubby really does not appreciate it at all when looking at it from a yard maintenance perspective, though.

Besides crawling around trying to get some fun shots, I spent the day yesterday making some more masks. I now have all the pieces cut and ready to go for 35 masks. This included getting all the iron on additions along the sides (2 pieces for each mask) done as well. All I have left to do is sew them together.

I plan to get as many of these done today as I can, but I don’t have all the elastic I need to finish them. I have it on order and it should be here in the next day or so. BTW… good luck finding any for a reasonable price right now. Sheesh!

I might consider doing more if there is a demand, but as of today, my hand is killing me from all the cutting. Not just the fabric, but all the tiny little iron ons had to be cut, one of which was on the more detailed side. At least the sewing part of this won’t murder those already abused joints. It will be my back instead after having been bent over all day.

Once these are all done, they are getting gifted. One person has already asked to buy one (before I knew for sure I was going to do these), but I’ve decided that I’m not taking any money for them. It is something I really wanted to do and I like the idea of working on a project like this. The overall amount of money I will have spent when it is all said and done is negligible because close to half of these are done with scrap material I already had on hand. Besides, the group these are going to will be interacting with BG on a regular basis soon, so this just means I’m going a little above and beyond in my effort to keep my kid safe and healthy in addition to all the other people it would help.

Today’s goal is to get all of BG’s finished first. I have 4 that she has designed with fabric and print. I also need to make a final decision on what I’m doing for elastic options on the ones I’m giving away. The way I’ve modified these for BG (oh, the wire cup thingy I spent hours on the other day ended up not working well for her and we are going with the same design I made for Hubby and I, go figure!) may not work as well for everyone. I have to figure out what would be the most versatile for the most people and go from there.

All that to say I’m probably going to be busy for the next several days.

 

Purple Frills

We actually got some sun yesterday and today is promising to be stunning. All the windows are open and I’m planning on spending at least a part of the day out playing with my flowers. A much needed break from the last couple of days.

Yesterday was BG’s last day of school and I’m so glad this year is done for both of the kids now. She took her last test, which was her pre-calc final the day before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her break down so hard or so fast over anything school related, let alone math related since she started on the accelerated path in 6th grade with a small group of other students and were still expected to know what the 7th graders had already learned and the 6th graders had skipped.

There were so many pieces to the why behind it, but a HUGE part of that is that the material needed to do well on the test wasn’t covered well since the students went online and the prep for the test was almost non-existent. There are some questions over whether a graded test should have even been presented based on district guidelines for the remainder of this year, especially for those students not taking it as a dual credit.

She talked to friends in the same class that had other teachers that didn’t even come close to the issues she had, so I have a whole lot of questions behind what went on with her class. I’m even thinking the other students took a VERY different test as theirs was only a 90 minute test and hers was 3 frickin’ hours long.

In the end, she did well enough to maintain her A for the course, but she was not happy with her performance. This after hours of study and note taking, a process that normally makes any test taking she does a breeze. Of all the things to go sideways in the massive changes that happened this year, I cannot stand that this has potentially shaken her faith in her own ability to handle the higher level math classes, even if only by a fraction.

So, yeah. I’m thrilled they are done with school for the year. She did get some hugely positive news on the tail end of it, though. She was accepted into a mentor program through the school for the next year, so that helped to end her year on a better note.

Yesterday was also my day to try and prep her for going back to her dance classes. As an assistant, she will be required to wear a mask. It looks like it is optional for dancers, but I’m not giving her that option. To make this possible, I was working on a mask design for her.

She has some anxiety issues and, maybe, mild asthma (though we haven’t gotten a doctor to confirm either). Because of that, she sometimes feels like she is having a slightly hard time breathing. When she tried on one of my masks, she couldn’t tolerate the fabric against her nose. I had to brainstorm and get creative, but I came up with an option that worked. I just had to fine tune it.

It took a bulk of my day to change the pattern I had and work though the logistics, but I now have a prototype for the rest of the masks I need to make her. All fit a small, wire mesh “cup” that I’ve formed to fit her face and give her space between her nose and the fabric. I have more sewing to do on these than on the masks I made for Hubby and I, but it looks like it is going to work well. She is supposed to try it out while dancing and see if I need to make any tweaks.

One of the things I did was use an iron on paper and printed the dance studio’s logo on one side of the mask and their nickname on the other. I posted pictures of it on FB and now I have at least one of her teachers wanting one. After talking to BG, I think my mask making project just got ramped up.

It is so damn weird to know that the kids are officially out of school for the summer and yet I’m prepping her to go back to dance, which is usually doing recitals around this time of year.

Oh! I caved yesterday after having to restart my computer several times just to get my internet connection back and get the damn thing to even start up. I have a new computer on the way. It would be awesome for things to calm down for a while. Seriously.

Peony

One of my two peonies are blooming. My other one should be opening in the next couple of days. That means that with my iris, I have tons of color going on in my yard right now.

Now if the weather could get its act together and remember that we are in mid/late May instead of April, that would be great. I’d also really like to see the sun again soon. That’d be great.

Mauve And Wine Iris

When compared to yesterday’s iris, this one seems less dainty and delicate, but it is just as eye catching because of its color. This one is the most colorful iris I have, but it also has the smoothest petals of all of them. I think the rust colored one comes in second, but it still has more ruffling than this one.

The lower petals are a deep, dark wine color that leans towards the purple end of the spectrum while the upper petals are a gorgeous mauve. Those colors frame the center that pulls in some yellows and even some cream, especially along the lower petals where that bright yellow fringe (did you know this is called the beard and is where the term bearded iris comes from? I did not until I looked it up so I could get the correct term) which gives the inside of those lower petals almost a tiger strip kind of pattern closer to the heart.

It is most likely the fact that you can find so many differences, both subtle and bold, in irises that makes these one of my favorite flowers. That and the blooms are always so large they fill any area they are planted in, at least through the blooming season. Even when they are done, the big flat leaves stay looking nice for a long time. I’m sure it also helps they are really easy to grow and require almost no maintenance other than thinning out their number every few years.